Mr Vincent Makota

GRID FORMING INVERTERS TO RELIABLY INTEGRATE MORE RENEWABLES INTO THE AUSTRALIAN ENERGY MARKET

By Ms Nancy Van Nieuwenhove | March 2021

Mr Vincent Makota

1st Year PhD candidate, Faculty of Engineering/ Department of ECSE (Zema Scholar)

Research interests: renewable energy, control interactions, stability of power systems, innovation, grid forming inverters, control of grid-forming inverters in weak grid

Vincent Makota

Mr Vincent Makota holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (Honours) from RMIT University. In 2019, Vincent was awarded an Aimaster Prize and in 2020 he received the Electrical Engineering Award. Vincent is pursuing a patent for his undergraduate thesis entitled Clock synchronisation for UWB based localisation. He reflected that his undergraduate studies exposed him to a variety of energy-related fields. “During my Bachelor, I was exposed to the different aspects of the energy industry. I also got the opportunity to have a year-long full-time internship with Bosch Australia Ltd in the research and development of vehicle access systems. I learned a lot about radio frequency communication. I also gained experience with systems engineering principles”.

Vincent has always aspired to be an engineer and saw himself working in the energy sector from an early age. “I was born in Zimbabwe and I moved to Australia when I was 10 years old. I am the first engineer in my family and the first to enter the energy industry. The Australian Energy sector is fascinating and complex and there is always going to be a need to improve energy production, access and use by our communities.”

Vincent started his PhD in Electrical Engineering at Monash University in March 2021. His research is being supervised by Dr Behrooz Bahrani (Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering/ Department of ECSE and Director of the Grid Innovation Hub) and will focus on emerging technologies, like the grid-forming inverters, to provide innovative solutions to reliably integrate more renewable resources with minimal impact on our transmission network. The energy transition in Australia is fast compared to the rest of the world. More renewable energy means more inverter-based generators in our power system. However, the long and skinny Australian grid has many weak areas, and the integration of inverter-based resources into the grid can become unreliable and unstable. Grid forming inverters, inverters creating the voltage reference and frequency, can be used as a grid strengthening asset, but at the moment, they have been limited to microgrids. My research will focus on how grid-forming inverters interact with other assets of the grid and how it impacts the grid stability”.

Due to the highly increased complexity of today’s power transmission network, part of Vincent’s research will examine how to use Artificial Intelligence to monitor the available data. “I will as well investigate the benefit of using Artificial Intelligence to automatically mitigate instability issues through controller tuning”.

Vincent has received the Zema Energy Studies Scholarship for his contribution towards grid-strengthening research through investigating emerging technologies like grid-forming inverters. “I chose to do a PhD at Monash University because of that collaboration between Monash and AEMO. The Zema Scholarship will give me the opportunity to collaborate with AEMO, energy leaders in the industry. I am happy I will be able to work on solving real issues in the Australian power system and I am sure I will gain technical competencies and develop transferrable leadership skills”.

In the future, Vincent would like to see reliable integration of more renewable energy resources across Australia. “AEMO has designated Renewable Energy Zones. Those zones are constrained by low system strength so it makes it difficult to progress renewable energy projects because the grid in these zones is not strong. That’s where my research comes into place, investigating grid-strengthening assets such as grid-forming inverters. The AEMO ISP integrated system plan for 2020 mentions they will be phasing out or retiring old generators and integrating more renewable energy resources across Australia. So, in the next 5 years, I hope that AEMO will continue along that path”.

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